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Theatre Review (LA): Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage by Eleanor Bergstein at the Pantages Theatre

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Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage, an extravagant event based on the 1987 blockbuster movie starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, has been selling out around the world; it's become an international sensation. Seeing the production that recently opened at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, it's easy to understand why. It's a knockout!

Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage is exactly that. It is not a play, nor is it a musical, though it includes the singing of an astounding 35 hit songs, including, of course, the Academy Award-winning "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life." What it is is an event, and the audience greets it as such, breathlessly anticipating the action all the way up to the famous line, “Nobody puts baby in the corner,” which brings the house down.

The plot and the lines are lovingly recreated. The two leads are Josef Brown, the dashing star of the Australian Ballet and the Sydney Dance Company, and Amanda Leigh Cobb, a graduate of The Yale School of drama and, on stage at least, a dead ringer for Jennifer Grey. They don’t sing, they just do the movie script and, of course, dance. Brown, a brilliant dancer, has been playing “Johnny Castle” since he appeared in London’s West End and Australia. Since he is an Aussie, his accent is a bit shaky at times, but his dancing, especially when he partners with the Joffrey Ballet star Britta Lazenga, is a thing of great beauty. Cobb is a lovely actress who shows her own dancing chops in the final big number.

The cast of 39 is composed of many talented and unique performers and dancers. Everywhere we look, different combinations of dance moves keep us endlessly fascinated. Kaitlin Hopkins and John Bolger are excellent as Baby’s parents. Katlyn Carlson gives a brave performance as Baby’s obnoxious and untalented sister Lisa.

Although it is the dancing that stands out in this show, the acting is real and very effective. These successes can be ascribed to James Power's specific direction and Kate Champion's outstanding choreography. It is all set against a gorgeous set designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis, who uses slides and photographs against the background of the set to give the appearance that we are at the Catskills resort where it all takes place.

Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage is playing at the Pantages Theatre until June 28th. It's a must-see for lovers of the film, fans of the music, and devotees of energetic, skilled dancing.

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